Shoulder style camera bags are something I have never really got on with, having a preference to spread the load evenly across my shoulders. But it hasn’t stopped me from trying a few out over the decades – from Billingham’s beautifully tactile products to unknown budget brands… I have owned a few. Except for the Billingham, none have stayed with me more than a year or so, and the Billingham only survived longer as it had become a repository for seldom used gear.
My photographic needs have changed considerably over the last few years. I no longer have the requirement (or desire) to carry lots of heavy gear around. I have done my time lugging enormous telephotos and lots of primes around. Experience has taught me what I really need to fulfil my needs and, to be honest, its not that much. Today, a small camera with one or two lenses is what I prefer as I find it provides clarity in the image capture process that can often become an overthought process when faced with the option of selecting one focal length from a bagful of lenses.
This philosophy ultimately fed into my bag requirements, leading to me purchasing a small Tenba DNA 8 shoulder bag from 2018’s NEC Camera Show. At the show I browsed through most brand’s ranges but the Tenba offered me the best solution. Having used it many times since purchase, I feel that the time has come to write a few words about it, based on experience.
This is not a bag for medium to large DSLR’s, or larger lenses, so those of you searching for a bag to fit such systems should maybe look at one of the larger designs in the DNA range. The DNA 8 is the tiniest and designed for smaller camera bodies with no more than two lenses. Or as I discovered, a fixed lens camera with peripherals and travel documents. My recent trip to Budapest brought home to me how well suited it was to my needs. Measuring just 10.5 x 7.5 inches with a height of 5 inches I packed in the following;
- Leica X113 Camera in case
- Spare Battery
- Cleaning Cloth
- MP3 Player in case
- Assorted cables
- Passport/Travel Documents
- Small guide book
And it still had a little room to spare.
The above items weighed no more than a couple of kilos, so it was never uncomfortable to carry around. I have also used it when travelling with my Leica T and 35mm f1.4 lens* attached, along with a similar peripheral list to the above. By putting the charger in one of the elasticated outer pockets, I can also add one of my other TL lenses – even the 55-135 zoom* will fit. If the second elasticated pocket was utilised, a further lens could be carried, but starts to unbalance the bag a bit, and I don’t like carrying lenses external to the bag for fear of damage or theft. It should be noted that the huge lens hoods provided with the lenses need to be reversed to allow them to fit in the bag.
Tenba seem to have thought of everything when designing this bag. The main pocket has soft dividers that are secured by Velcro, allowing easy adjustment (not that its size allows much in the way of configuration). Arranged correctly, it can hold a tablet up to 8 inches in size. The base is well padded and absorbs shock well. Four pockets on the front are large enough to be useful, allowing storage of many small items such as phone, keys, wallet etc. A larger pocket on the back is a good place to store documents as it has little in the way of expansion to hold wider items. My Kindle also fits in here. Each end has an elasticated pocket that I have not used much, but they are great for holding small drinks bottles. For those who like such features, it has a quick access zip across the top of the outer flap, allowing the user speedier access to the contents. I have not used this as I find the bag is easy enough to access via the front clips.
Writing of these, they are pretty cool as they are magnetic. To open simply twist and pull gently. To close, just offer the clip up to the bag and it snaps magnetically into place. I admit to being particularly taken by this feature, getting a great sense of entertainment from opening and closing repeatedly. An additional level of security is provided by Velcro fasteners which, combined with the clips, makes it virtually impossible for the bag to spill its contents. A note on the type of Velcro used here; Tenba market it as “Quiet Whisper Hook Closure”. What this translates into is a type of Velcro that is much quieter when pulling apart, although it does require pulling in a downward direction for maximum effect.
A nice touch is the separate rain cover, manufactured from highly water-resistant nylon which looks similar to that used on some of my other rain covers that accompany my backpacks. Apart from a few showers when testing it out, it has not seen a serious deluge yet, but I have no reason to suspect it won’t protect my gear. When not in use, the cover can be stored in one of the elasticated pockets mentioned above.
The bag itself is constructed from strong, rip stop nylon which itself offers a high level of moisture resistance. Joints appear to be well stitched and should provide many years of use. The strap is wide for a bag of this size, adding to the comfort value, especially when carrying it for several hours. All in all it is a very well made little bag.
The DNA 8 is available in four colours; Graphite, Olive, Cobalt and Dark Copper. All colours look great with the Cobalt coming tops in my opinion. Due to only having the demo one in this colour at the show, I opted for Olive. Had Cobalt been available, I would have had no hesitation going for this.
When wishing to travel light, the DNA 8 is an excellent experience, and one I personally recommend if your requirements are similar to mine. After several months of use, I think this is the first bag I have ever owned that I cannot fault. In my opinion it is limited only by its size. But the DNA range has several other offerings which have similar feature sets.
Oh, Tenba bags don’t break the bank. They are well constructed, well specified and well priced – attributes that are very difficult to ignore.